Back to Inquiry Set

“Special Report: Black & Gay: Problems and Possibilities.”

This essay was originally published in 1976 in a magazine called The Advocate. During the 1970s, The Advocate was the most widely read magazine discussing gay culture and gay rights. This essay was written to highlight ways in which some gay people in the 1970s were excluding members of their own community on the basis of race.

Soares, John Victor; The Advocate
1976
Magazine
ONE Archives

Zoares, John Victor. The Advocate, “Special Report: Black & Gay: Problems and Possibilities.” 1976. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries.

This essay was originally published in 1976 in a magazine called The Advocate. During the 1970s, The Advocate was the most widely read magazine discussing gay culture and gay rights. This essay was written to highlight ways in which some gay people in the 1970s were excluding members of their own community on the basis of race. During the 1970s, gay people were “coming out” in large numbers and creating many new businesses and institutions, such as bars, dance clubs, and bookstores. Black, Latino, and Asian gays and lesbians were sometimes excluded from these institutions due to racism. This put LGBTQ people of color in a difficult position: They were often rejected by their families and communities for being gay, then rejected by gay culture because of their race. It should be noted, however, that many white gay activists opposed such racist practices and protested against such practices in an effort to make LGBTQ businesses and institutions welcoming to everyone in the community.

This document is nice case study in intersectionality. It shows the common dilemma of LGBTQ people of color: double exclusion, being rejected from both sides. This has been a common experience for many LGBTQ people of color, and it makes navigating one’s sexual identity even more complicated than it already is. The document suggests two ways for overcoming racism in the LGBTQ community: try to integrate white-dominant LGBTQ institutions, or create separate institutions. Note how this is similar to broader debates among black activists in the 1960s on whether to focus on integration with whites (MLK) or black community empowerment and racial solidarity (Malcolm X). Indeed, many issues that play out in the history of race in the United States play out in gay culture in microcosm. We might think that just because a person has suffered discrimination in one form, they will be more sensitive to its other forms, but the historical record shows this is often not the case. These issues still play out in the present in interesting ways.

SPECIAL REPORT
BLACK & GAY
PROBLEMS AND POSSIBILITIES

A young, black, gay man decided to check out a neighborhood gay bar around the corner from the where he was living. A new student at Loyola Universtiy in Chicago, he felt he had nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain. After five minutes of a motionless, hostile glare from the elderley bartender, he finally realized that he would not be served.

By John Victor Soares
Whether subtle or not, racism in the gay sub-culture is reality that all black gay people deal with, unless-perhaps implausibly-they have insulated themselves with a closed circle of close friends...It would be unwarranted, given the facts, to assume that because gay people are members of a minority group themselves, they are free of the racism that pervades American society in general. Just as gay people have stationed themselves in the full range of professional and life styles found through-out the nation, so also have they acquired attitudes and behavioral patterns-also throughout the nation-which go to make up racism.

To those who have moved in both straight and gay circles, it does in deed appear that for every racially colored posture that is found in straight society, there is a corresponding one in gay society...

In spite of this, it must be remembered that racism is not necessarily a critical issue for black gay people in every situation. Obviously, there is a way to nullify it as far as gay-­‐centered activities are concerned, and this way is though interaction in the black gay community. Of course, the extent to which such a community is available depends on the place one finds oneself.

Chances of finding an active and productive social life in the black gay community are far better in key cities with large black populations than in cities and areas sparsely populated by black people. Often too, there may be an important black population in a certain area, but for various reasons black gay social life is not highly organized and intense as in such blackgay supercenter as New York;Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Atlanta and Chicago. Although Detroit and St. Louis for example have sizeable black populations, black gay social life simply does not muster up to the standards of sparkle, lavishness and frequency of entertainment that are so strikingly observable in the super-­‐centers...

The integrated gay community, where blacks, whites and other mingle, is where racism can become an issue, and its importance as an issue depends largely on where one lives…

November 17, 1976 THE ADVOCATE Page 13